Sophie Koko Gate’s Half Wet strikes a tone that is really difficult to describe—somewhere between a poem and a parody, and it’s pitched at a level that makes it hard to know how seriously to take it. On the one hand, it does strike a chord with its worries about aging; Gus, the main character, is turning 25 and worries about his youth evaporating, all while pining over an ex who may show up at his birthday. On the other, it fully recognizes how trite that all sounds, and pokes fun at its own neuroses. It’s sincere and self-aware all at once.

That’s a particularly contemporary mix, and so is the overall design. It’s odd how much you can already look back and recognize a mid-2010s aesthetic, but everything from the pink, purple and blue colour scheme to the floating frames from a mid-film fantasy are clearly from the time of the Tumblr aesthetic and vaporwave. That’s not a shot—Half Wet is a great-looking film, and the pseudo-surreal art direction adds a lot to the mood. But it’s also interesting to see the ways Gate has played with that style in her newer works, taking what’s already a distinctive look and evolving it in ways that are much harder to pin down.

PS – If you’re curious about Gate’s process, there’s a great interview from 2014 over at Director’s Notes, where she shouts out last week’s Monday Short artist Nicolas Menard.

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